Slaves helped build White House and Capitol
by William Reed
(FinalCall.com) -- A 1790s U.S. Treasury Department note read:
"Please pay to John Hurie the balance due for the hire of Negro Emanuel
for the year 1794." Few entries in America’s history ledger note the
uncompensated economic contributions of enslaved Africans in the U.S. as
John Hurie’s request for payment for his hired slave. The government
paid Mr. Hurie, but now some of today’s Blacks want Emanuel’s
descendents to be compensated for their ongoing plight on these shores.
Government’s debt to Blacks has been pending a long time. On December
2, 1863, when the "Freedom" statue was hoisted atop the dome of the U.S.
Capitol, it was due to the workmanship of a slave at the Bladensburg
(Maryland) Foundry, Philip Reid. He was responsible for the bronze
casting that is a symbol of freedom around the world.
Between 1790 and 1863, artisans like Reid comprised half the
workforce that built the White House and the Capitol. America’s Capitol
City was built on the backs of slaves: Those who worked Virginia’s
quarries, digging and transporting the stones to Washington; performing
work required to place the cut stones on the walls; digging the trenches
and ditches; and hauling lumber and other materials.
Over a 70-year period, slaves toiled from dawn to dusk building the
temples to represent a country were "all men are created equal." Slaves
cleared the trees and brush for the Mall and Washington boulevards that
lead to the seat of a government "with liberty and justice for all."
Reid & Company never received a fair day’s pay, but the Irish and
German immigrant workers who labored beside them were paid from $4.65 to
$10.50 a week. Enslavers like Hurie and Reid’s owner Clark Mills
received $5 a week for each of their slave’s labors.
On August 17, 2002, a million Black Americans are scheduled to
convene at the U.S. Capitol to demand compensation for the works of
Reid, and other ancestors who built the Capitol, and the country’s
capitalistic system. Even though Colin Powell and Condeleezza Rice won’t
be among them, people who feel America still owes them a debt will press
their case for Black reparations. Bryan Gumbel may be missing, but those
attending will be standing up for contemporary victims of "America’s
Before Phillip Reid’s ancestors reached America, 15 to 25 million
other Africans were killed in the Middle Passage. Subsequently,
enslavement of Blacks in America lasted 246 years; followed by a century
of legal racial segregation and discrimination. Though America refuses
to apologize to African Americans for slavery and its vestiges, the
periods constitute the world’s longest running crime against humanity.
Though the Blacks in corporate America won’t be totally represented,
those that do come will speak for millions of Blacks who remain
economically and socially disabled by American slavery and the century
of government-embraced racial discrimination that followed it. Marchers
don’t expect Department of Justice’s Larry Thompson to be there, but
many there will decry the disproportionate number of Black men
populating America’s prisons. They’ll be there for remedies for the high
rate of birth defects among impoverished Black mothers, educational
opportunities, and discuss why Black unemployment rates double that of
Whites year after year.
As a result of the ravages of slavery and racial strictures that
followed it, Blacks in America have been consigned to the Nation’s
economic bottom. A static economic gap has existed for Blacks since the
On August 17th, an aggrieved community of slave descendents will
gather beneath the stature of Freedom to that centuries-old debts to
them will be addressed once and for all.